Daily Archives: March 23, 2011

Special Command of the Long-Range Zone

This morning’s Nezavisimaya gazeta picked up an Interfaks report from an “informed Navy Main Staff source” that Russia will establish a so-called “special command of the long-range zone” in the Indian Ocean by 2013.  Such a naval group would have antipiracy as its primary, but not its sole, mission.

The Main Staff representative said the new command would be formed from Black Sea Fleet ships, and would be patterned after the Soviet-era 5th and 8th Operational Squadrons.  It would bear full-time responsibility for securing Russian civilian shipping in the Horn of Africa.

NG says questions about the new eskadra’s material-technical support (MTO) and temporary ship basing are now being considered.  The Soviet Mediterranean (5th) Eskadra used a material-technical support point (PMTO) in Tartus, Syria that represents the Russian Navy’s only current overseas facility.  But the paper notes Tartus is too distant to support Indian Ocean operations.  The Indian Ocean (8th) Eskadra used Yemen’s Socotra Island.

NG adds that Pacific Fleet’s Udaloy-class DDG Admiral Vinogradov, a tanker, and naval tug put in at Port Victoria, Seychelles early this month for replenishment after four straight months at sea.  The paper’s report trails off rather weakly adding that the new command will increase the effectiveness of Russian antipiracy operations.

Trud covered the story too.  Its experts think the new naval grouping’s missions will be broader than antipiracy.  A new command wouldn’t have to rely on ships from different fleets arriving every 2-3 months.  The command might have three frigates, a tanker, and tug at a permanent base in the Horn of Africa or Gulf of Aden.

Former Baltic Fleet Commander, Admiral Vladimir Valuyev tells Trud the 8th Eskadra’s mission was monitoring U.S. Navy ship movements and showing support for regimes friendly to the USSR.  But the paper says its former port infrastructure on Socotra is now in ruins.

Trud’s own Main Staff source says Russia doesn’t plan to return to Socotra, and other basing options are being considered.  It doesn’t even have to be a foreign port since an anchorage in neutral waters could be outfitted sufficiently.  Trud says Valuyev is sure antipiracy is a convenient excuse for Russia to demonstrate a naval presence in the Africa-Middle East region where new post-revolutionary regimes are taking shape.

But maybe it’s also a way to show why Russia needs a Navy as well as what it can do.

Careful How You Read

Be careful what you read, but be even more careful how you read it (or who translates it).

The Russians won’t put both SLBMs and SLCMs on their fifth generation submarines.  Would that really make military sense?  What they apparently intend is to build a multipurpose hull to fit out as either SSBN or SSN.  Now does that raise interesting arms control verification issues?

Several days ago, in advance of March 19 – the 105th anniversary of Nikolay II’s designation of the submarine as an Imperial Navy ship class (i.e. Submariner’s Day since 1996) – a “highly-placed RF Navy Main Staff representative” elected to tell RIA Novosti about work on Russia’s fifth generation submarine.

Production of the fourth generation proyekt 955 SSBNs and proyekt 885 SSNs is just really now reaching the ramp-up stage.  But design and development of fifth generation submarines is included in the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020, according to RIA Novosti’s Navy Main Staff source.

When you Google “Russian fifth generation submarine,” you get a string of English-language news and blog items that say things like:

“. . . a high-level Russian navy insider said a future ballistic-missile submarine would also carry cruise missiles.”

“Russia is planning to equip its fifth-generation nuclear submarines with both ballistic and cruise missiles, a media report said.”

Even RIA Novosti’s own English-language site bollixed it:

“Russia’s proposed fifth-generation nuclear submarines will be armed with both ballistic and cruise missiles, a senior Navy source told RIA Novosti on Saturday.”

RIA Novosti actually wrote:

“The fifth generation submarine will be standardized for ballistic as well as for cruise missiles.” 

And RIA Novosti’s unnamed admiral actually said:

“The concept for creating a new nuclear submarine (APL or АПЛ) envisages a unified hull both for multirole [i.e. attack] as well as for strategic submarines, therefore design bureaus Rubin and Malakhit which today specialize in designing strategic and multirole submarines respectively are working on its development.” 

Rusnavy.com got it right.  

As always said about new submarines, the unknown admiral said the fifth generation will be distinguished for its lowered noise, automated control systems, reactor safety, and long-range weapons.  But he added:

“I’m not talking about ballistic missiles, we’re talking long-range cruise missiles and torpedoes.”